Skip to main content

tv   Americas Civil Religion Cultural Wars  CSPAN  November 26, 2017 2:45pm-4:01pm EST

2:45 pm
anniversary of sociologist robert bellows's essay on american civil religion. tv, on american history yale university sociology were professor philip gorski gives a history of civil religion in america and shares his views on the cultural wars dividing the nation. arizona state university for the the study of religion and conflict toasted this conference. it is just over an hour. oftoday's lecture is part the maxine and jonathan marshall speaker series on religion and conflict. see, itfriends of csr is because it reflected their long-standing concerns to promote peaceful solutions to pressing conflicts in our world. and their generosity and funding beareries continues to
2:46 pm
fruit long after their passing. it is also important to remember the contributions of any and play ands and sizes vital role to supporting the work we do here at the center, and that includes student research, fellowships, travel, and public programming and public education. thank all of our friends at the center who are here today, and this eating an event on the topic of civil religion, i salute you as well. for those of you who are just learning about the center's work or if this is one of our first times -- if this is why your first times attending our talks, we want to make sense of the past, the current moment, and to shape our shared future. i would encourage you to become a friend of the center. there are envelopes touted around the room, stuck to the bottom -- scattered around the room, stuck to the bottom of your shoe. there are assignments as a table -- at the tables on the
2:47 pm
entryways that you can take with you. i would be remiss if i did not think the outstanding staff that works at the center who works feverishly behind the scene to pull off and events like this. our event coordinator, our matt ist director, tending the front tables, laurie, thank you all for the work that you do every day. i'll also have a special thanks for jim and ed, how are technical sound team back there, for their awesome health -- help. we live in a tumult to us time, when ideas about what it means to be american, what america means to us, other people in the world, this is all very much up for grabs. we see debates about rival visions of america on the campaign trail and in the daily
2:48 pm
political conversations. we see them on congress campuses -- college campuses, taking place in the workrooms, the break rooms at our places of vocation. they are happening at our dining room tables. these debates are also involving protests.eets, the they are happening over and underneath public monuments and our public squares across the country. in this past weekend, we saw that these debates about who we are are unfolding even on the football field and stadiums around our country. football, of all things -- right? there cannot be a timelier moment for this talk on civil religion today. this is a topic that goes to the heart of questions about america's founding, our history, identity, our ideals, our sense of purpose in the world. professor gorski will give you a very full and detailed
2:49 pm
understanding of what that entails. i wasn't lafayette as this. i have called -- i will simplify it as this. i have called civil religion of the moral backbone of politics. it is a collective effort to understand the american experiment of self-governance based on civil's we recognize as american. a timely moment because this marks the 50th anniversary of the article that coined this term, american civil religion. either way, sociologist robert bella. he recognizes these roots go way back, as you will hear today. it is not only the right time to talk about civil religion in america, we also have exactly the right person to do this, philip gorski. in addition to being a student of robert mcculloch at the university -- robert bella at the university of california, he is a distinguished sociologist
2:50 pm
in his own right at yale university, where he is the codirector of the center for comparative research and co-runs we'llligion and politics: -- colloquium. he is the author of six books, which focus on nationalism, economic development, and secularization with particular attention to the reaction of religion and politics. his new book, "american covenant," was described by the new york times as essential reading for the moment. i could not agree more. and you can purchase a copy of this essential reading it have an autographed at the end of the lecture, right outside. welcomingjoin me in this year's martial speaker, philip gorski? -- marshall speaker, philip
2:51 pm
gorski? [applause] >> thank you, john, for that generous introduction. thank you to the marshall family and the csrc for inviting me here, and thank you all for coming to hear me speak today. the united states is in the midst of a deep crisis. i think we all feel it, some of us more acutely than others. , a crisis has many causes growing economic inequality that has led some americans to lose faith in the american dream, the height in racial antagonism aroused by a black man occupying the white house, and a never ending cultural war between secular progressives and religious conservatives. wars that areure going to be the focus of my talks today.
2:52 pm
they have been raging for the better part of four decades. the present conflict is about issues, particularly abortion and gay marriage. these are contentious issues and i will not pretend to resolve .hem here instead, i would like to focus on another source of the conflict, mainly history. right-wing culture warriors often argue that the united states was founded as a christian nation. their left-wing opponents often respond that it was founded as a secular democracy. my thesis is that both of these stories are wrong, or at least one-sided. our civic tradition has both sacred and secular sources. it is both civil and religious in origin, and that is one reason why i call it our civil religion. and while some religion can divide us, this one has more often united us. i think it might help unite us
2:53 pm
again. probably not all of us, but maybe enough of us to restart our civic conversation and begin moving the country forward again. let's take a closer look at that history. --'s start with the curtains the puritans, john winthrop, the long time governor of the massachusetts-based colony. before he set sail for the new world in 1630, he gave a brief speech. we have entered into a covenant, he said, and if we live up to m, we will be as a city on a hill. but if we don't, he warned, we will he brought below. he did not mean that america would be singled out for special blessing, he did not say god bless america, but he meant that we would be placed under special judgment. --t we would be judged for our economic prosperity, military might, winning?
2:54 pm
no, our charity and self abridgment, our meekness and unity. there is the religious strand in winthrop's vision, and here is the secular one. canlso said no commonweal be founded by free consent. that is an old word for public or democracy. the original charter for the massachusetts state colony for-profit merchant adventurer, not a puritan settlement. winthropped help -- helped draw up a new constitution that extend political rights -- not to everyone, of course -- but to all white male church members, which was still a radical thing to do in an aristocratic age of monarchical government. from the very beginning, our
2:55 pm
civil religion has had a steak drawnand -- sacred strand from biblical religion and a secular strand from political philosophy. the puritans themselves fell well short of these ideals, not least in their dealings with native america. their idealsls -- themselves, justice and liberty, our noble nonetheless. the second founding of the united states, the american revolution. once again, we find a complex mixture of sacred and secular sources blended together. take the declaration and the constitution. the declaration says that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. we constitution continues
2:56 pm
the people of the united states, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure toestic tranquility provides promote the general welfare, and extend the blessings of liberty doourselves in prosperity ordain and establish this constitution. familiar words, of course. some interpreters have argued that our constitution is godless , and strictly speaking, they are right. the constitution itself contains no mention of god. same cannot be said of the declaration, which expressly speaks of a creator that made us equal and endowed us with an available -- unalienable sacred andixture of secular. but our religion and republicanism at odds? today, but notus
2:57 pm
to the founding generation. biblical religion than democratic self-government fit hand in glove. was firsttone text [indiscernible] . here is how they read it. when the israelites requested kings, god gave them one, but only as a form of punishment. for what is a king but a false god, an idol? self-governing republic's are the form of government appropriate to a righteous people. they did not come up with this reading themselves, they borrowed it from medieval judaism. how widespread was this view, you ask? it extended well beyond the ranks of orthodox christians, that is for certain. benjamin franklin. this is his proposal for the national seal of the united states. in case you have not noticed, that would be the israelites
2:58 pm
crossing the red sea. or consider that runaway bestseller of the revolutionary era, "common sense" by thomas payne. he was no christian, but here is how he argued it. they disapproved of government by kings, for near 3000 years, israel had a kind of republic administered by a judge and the elders of the tribe, that is until the jews, under a national delusion, requested a king. so even the most skeptical of the founders regarded biblical religion and republican self-government as potentially complement to rate. -- complementary. but the founders fell far short of their own ideals, like the puritans. while the declaration loudly declare that all men were created equal, the const fusion downgraded -- constitution
2:59 pm
downgraded african slaves to thsee sets of a person -- 3/5 of a person. if freeman med free, white, man, no problem. some defenders of southern slavery sought to do away with the contradiction by doing away with the declaration itself. john c calhoun, the chief ideologue of the southern slave ocracydly, -- slave dismissed all men created equal as a falsehood admitted in the declaration without any necessity. he also wanted to strike some phrases from the constitution. , mind you, hew was fine with that, but what troubled him was the phrase "we the people of the united states." "wehought it should read
3:00 pm
the peoples of each united states." it was the peoples of every state that were the white northerners agreed with calhoun, even to some degree the young abraham lincoln. lincoln didn't like slavery, but he did not like for racial equality either, not at first anyway. no was he in the opinion that the united states had the power to abolish slavery. so what changed his mind? his own rereading of the founders writing of the founding documents. after months of steady in springfield lambright, lincoln concluded that the spirit of those documents was contained in the preamble and the spirit of those documents sometimes
3:01 pm
overrode the letters contained the claim that all men are created equal overrode the 3/5 clause. the search for more perfect trumped the-- individual states. frederick douglass was of the same mind. in many well be the one who changed lincoln's mind on this. for calhoun, the covenant had one value -- freedom. for lincoln, it had at least two. free government, yes, but also social inequality. the united states had failed to live up to the screen.
3:02 pm
the civil war was it's just punishment, or so he concluded in his second inaugural address. so it still must be said that the judgment of the lord are true and righteous altogether. the americans have broken the government -- covenant, he argued, and the civil war was the deserved punishment. for a brief time, the united states try to live up to this comment and pursue racial equality in a serious way. they quickly reverted to their old black -- backsliding ways.
3:03 pm
from the era of reconstruction to the progressive era of the 1920's, 30's and 40's. a lot has changed. industrialization has made the united states more powerful. immigration has made it more .iverse world war i turned it into a global power. it also resulted in massive social inequality and a nativist backlash against immigrants and asian americans. an epidemic of lynchings and imperialist misadventures overseas. therein lies cause for hope as well as despair. the progressive era was also an air of civic renewal, period our civilrevitalized
3:04 pm
religious tradition by reaching back to its deepest sources -- philosophy and theology. let's start with the man who america'sbe known philosopher, john dewey. born in vermont, raised a protestant, do we became a professor of philosophy at the inner city of chicago and then at combat. in the process, he lost his religion, but not his faith. at least is not his faith in american democracy. for dewey, american democracy was a kind of spiritual project. in many ways, do his political views anticipated and shapes those of today secular progressives. he believed that increased federal power would sometimes be necessary to save our democratic freedoms. arguedarlier america, he , i agricultural america, work
3:05 pm
talk -- where property was more evenly distributed, the power of insufficient to counteract the power of the field. in an industrial america, property was so concentrated in the hands of the few that they could ride roughshod over the interest of the many. the only way balance could be restored was if a democratic of thery used the power states to counterbalance the power of the wealthy few. democratizing freedom would involve temporary capital economy with the powers of the national state. do his version of secular progressivism drew heavily on it .une philosophy it drew on the -- heavily on ancient philosophy.
3:06 pm
iger to the very wellspring of the democratic idea. ancients, it also believed that a democratic constitution was a need for sex -- a successful republican about not a sufficient one. he thought that civic education was equally crucial. the chief purpose was to form , not byic citizens indoctrinating them with somewhat washed version of american history. instilling democratic association, habits of experimentation, of cooperation, of reflection. nor was civic education alone enough. it had to be combined with what for thed a common faith
3:07 pm
agents, that faith had been a faith in the gods of the city. for most americans, that had meant a faith in the god of the bible. of course, it still does. but not for dewey. duties was a secular faith. -- dewey's was a secular faith, a proposition about the cosmos itself. dewey argued that democracy inscribed nature. that nature itself is pluralistic, relational, open-ended, just as democracy is. project the democratic really is a spiritual project and not just a political one. his common faith was an perhaps
3:08 pm
still could be a civil religion for secular progressives. let's turn from america's philosopher to america's theologian. that would be reinhold meagher. townand raised in a small in southern illinois, he was the son of a german [indiscernible] following in his graduation from yale divinity's will, he spent most of his career in city, just a few doors down from doing at columbia. influential? what made him america's theologian? why did he make the cover of time magazine, not once, but twice? not for what you might think. lome him so famous was the idea of original sin. or rather a particular .nderstanding of original sin
3:09 pm
in his view, the original sin was pride, not lust or greed, pride. prideloud and boastful that is fitted by recognition and power, but quieter and subtler forms of pride that's often far behind a veil of thank quite no for what makes religious nationalism so dangerous is that it conjoins , andtual national pride race and class pride as well.
3:10 pm
merely idolatrous, but possibly do monica. it involves invasion and physician self. if anything, we are more powerfully possessed by it now . because weore now tend to regard sources of empowerment and self-esteem and not the sources of danger and corruption as earlier generations of americans did. his views about human nature made him skeptical about certain versions of secular progressivism. for example, the view that education is the cure for all else.
3:11 pm
education is only a panacea if ignorance is the root of all evil. but what if the root of all evil is pride? then humility and contrition will be more important than and contrition. niebuhr was also skeptical about the progressive vision of progress. not because he denied the possibility of progress, but because in his view, history does not move in a straight line. rather, it forms a widening spiral. spiral first because progress is always followed by regress. a widening spiral because it is the possibilities of human oppression -- of human cooperation expand, so too do the possibilities of human oppression.
3:12 pm
globalization can lead to new forms of solidarity, but also to new forms of exploitation. niebuhr was especially concerned about utopian versions of progressivism. versions which claim to know the end of history in advance, and exactly how to get there. for niebuhr, the end of history is not accessible to reason. we are not capable of discerning it. for niebuhr, the end of history is outside of history. we can pursue justice, but we cannot achieve it. not in here and now and not in any endurable way. niebuhr urges us to be optimistic without fatalistic, righteous without self-righteous. he talks of a guiding myth. by myth he means a transcendent narrative treated as truth. our civil religious tradition is one such myth. no account of our civic tradition would be complete
3:13 pm
without a discussion of martin luther king. what lincoln had been to generations past -- he is our greatest civic saint. he is known to every american school child, whose speeches are veritable catechism. it was a lot like lincoln and niebuhr's, two of his heroes. highly critical but ultimately affirming.
3:14 pm
king was fully aware of the moral rot that had spread through american society as a result of racial prejudice. but he never gave up his hope for political redemption. in his speeches he urged his followers repeatedly to uncover an older dream, the american dream that used to be. not the shallow dream of material ease, but the nobler dream of human equality and national unity that had animated earlier generations of americans. the substance of the dream is expressed in these sublime words of king's -- we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. king did not regard this dream as his alone. he argued god somehow called america to do a special job for mankind in the world. never before in the history of the world had so many racial groups and so many national
3:15 pm
backgrounds assembled together in one nation, a statement even truer now than it was in king's day. if we cannot solve the problem of america, the world cannot solve the problem. because america is the world in miniature and the world is america at large. in a sense, king was an american exceptionalist. his exceptionalism was not the christian and militarism of today. american exceptionalism already sees the u.s. as the chosen one, the divine arm of long justice. the puritans saw america as an almost chosen nation, but people that set themselves apart in a great collective experiment, placed under historical judgment.
3:16 pm
like winthrop, king hoped america would be an example to the world and warned of god's wrath, should they fail. the judgment of god is upon us, he said. and we must either learn to live together as brothers and
3:17 pm
sisters, or we're all going to perish as fools. those words, truer now than ever. then came the culture wars of the 1980's and 1990's. civil religion started to unravel. there were still veterans of the human rights movement, there still are. but many walked away from it. some became technocrats, cheerleaders for globalization, preaching gospel of economic growth. others embraced a radical identity politics that highlighted our differences, to the point of denying our commonalities. only a few held fast. when the secular left the civil religion go, the religious right quickly seized hold of it and set about correcting it. jerry falwell led the way. for those too young to remember, he was the founder of the moral majority, the political arm of the new christian right. falwell had lots to say about sin. for him, sin was always individual, never collective. and it was mostly sexual, never social. when falwell denounced of the sins of the people, it was always other people he had in mind. the fornicators, abortionists, hedonists, secularists, never the following members of his own flock. of him who builds his house by unrighteousness, suffered rooms of on justice, makes his
3:18 pm
neighbors serve for nothing, he says, i will build myself a great house, spacious upper rooms, as jeremiah. of this sinner, falwell said nothing. one suspects falwell cares nothing. in falwell's hand, it evolved into a reactionary religious nationalism that niebuhr had so stringently warned us against. ronald reagan laid a small supporting role in this process, albeit subtler and a more ambiguous one. there we go. for reagan spoke of america not as a city on a hill, but a shining city on a hill, a glittering object admired by all the world for its wealth, piety, and power. reagan did speak of evil, but only with regard to communist. the american people were inherently good and the united states was brave, exceptionally great.
3:19 pm
far from warning about the dangers of excessive national pride, reagan subtly encouraged them. gone too was the worry of excessive luxury and wealth. for reagan, wealth was good and unambiguously so. the only real source of corruption and american life he thought was the state, particularly the welfare state. and yet to his credit, at the close of his presidency, reagan did have this to say about the shining city. if there has to be city walls, the walls have doors, and the doors are open to those with the heart to get there. his civil religion may have been tarnished, but it was still racially inclusive. too many of his contemporary admirers seem to have forgotten that. eventually the civil religion did get it back. the turning white came in july of 2004 when a skinny guy with a funny name walked onto a stage in boston. i stand here knowing my story is part of the larger american
3:20 pm
story, he said. that i owe buy debt to all those who came before me, and nowhere else on earth is my story even possible. the greatness of our nation, he said, is not in the height of our skyscrapers or power of our military, or the size of our economy, rather the simple premise. we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. he did not hesitate to give concrete examples of how we have fallen short and continue to fall short. he encouraged americans to stand in solidarity. he said it allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single
3:21 pm
american family. three and a half years later, march of 2008, barack obama walked out to another stage. this time in philadelphia, the infamous jeremiah surfaced. they showed obama's pastor with incendiary remarks about the u.s. obama waited for the remarks to pass, but it only intensified. he decided to face the issue head-on by giving a speech on race in america. with much discussion of the speech's content, but note the frame. it was unusual for a speech on race relations in the u.s. it was delivered at the national constitution center in philadelphia, rather than at a pastor church in atlanta.
3:22 pm
the opening was not taken from one of king's speeches, but from the preamble to the constitution. we the people, in order to form a more perfect union. the narrative itself was taken straight out of exodus, talk of covenants, original sin, african slavery, people back sliding and marching, jim crow, civil rights, the promised land just over the horizon, in king's 11 community. king's beloved community. civil religion had been torn to shreds by three decades of culture war. but somehow, obama had pieced it back together again. tattered as it was, it had not lost its appeal. that much is clear from the rapturous crowds at obama's rally. they resembled religious
3:23 pm
revivals. they were civil religious revivals. alas, the new version of civil religion was not as strong as the old one. it had been originally woven out of the exodus story, people who fled slavery for the promised land, who came together around a common creed, wandered in the desert, broke the covenant, peered over the mountaintop. that was the thread obama was pulling on. but there is a second thread he held too lightly, also very old, civil republicanism. it is a political idea that goes back to ancient greece and rome. it is the idea of a free and self-governing people, that eschews the words of tyrants, by the people and for the people. he relied on the biblical story of exodus, the republican thread
3:24 pm
was mostly missing from his tapesty in that weakened it considerably. what can we learn from this ancient story? a lot, i think. many of its most powerful lessons have been strongly vindicated in recent months. the first is that democratic institutions are very, very fragile. much more fragile than we americans tend to think. to the sort of constitution we have, benjamin franklin is supposed to reprise, the replied, republic, if you can keep it. whether we do and will remain an open question. the second lesson is that progress is not irreversible. contemporary progressive sometimes imagine history is like an escalator, you just step on and it always moves up in the
3:25 pm
same direction, without much effort. for civic republicans, history is more like a car jack. a small increment of progress requires an enormous effort. that progress can come crashing down very quickly if someone hits the release lever. a tiny little thumb on that lever right now. third, civil republicanism, civil republicans know, democratic institutions are easily corrupted. today, we think of corruption narrowly as quid pro quo or pay to play, and there is certainly plenty of that. but civic republicans understand corruption more broadly as simply putting pride interests -- puttingprivate private interests ahead of the public good. whether those interests are personal, corporate, or partisan.
3:26 pm
and that too, is pervasive. civic republicans know that free institutions require civic virtue. not virtue in the victorian sense of prudery and politeness, but in the ancient sense of bravery and self-sacrifice for the common good. the law and institutions alone are never enough. people must be ready and willing to defend them when necessary. to many of us forgotten in these ancient truths. this is one reason the american republic is currently in such great peril. probably the greatest danger it has been in since world war ii. the danger comes from within, rather than from without. that danger is only magnified by our current political polarization. it will not be easy. those of us or secular progressives might begin by recognizing the positive role that biblical religion has played in american history and
3:27 pm
the history of american progressivism itself. for secular progressivism is in many ways nothing else but a secularized version of religious progressivism. those of us who are religious conservatives need to acknowledge the influence on american christianity itself. we might shift our focus from the contentious issues about which we so often disagree to some of the core values about which we mostly do a great. equality and freedom, for example. both are enshrined in our founding documents. to these values i would add solidarity and inclusion. solidarity in the sense of care
3:28 pm
for the general welfare, in the constitution. and inclusion in our national motto, e pluribus unum. freedom, equality, inclusion in solidarity. what seems to me to be their order of priority. freedom, then he quality, inclusion in solidarity. i know some would disagree, some might put equality before freedom or solidarity before inclusion. i would argue the founders understood freedom and political terms. republican freedom, an active citizenship. but you might disagree. maybe you understand freedom in mainly economic terms, freedom of property. maybe you think religious freedom is our first freedom. these are arguments worth
3:29 pm
having, the arguments we should be having. some people think the source of our problem is that we argue too little. i think it is the opposite, that we argue too much. sure, we engage in a lot of ad hominem attacks. the anonymity of social media has made the exchange of insults into a video game of sorts, the most popular one in this side of tetris or angry birds. conservative libertarians often insist freedom of speech must have absolute priority over consideration of social inclusion. liberal multiculturalists counter the opposite. neither side wants to talk about how to balance freedom and inclusion. perhaps because it is hard.
3:30 pm
moral absolutism is much easier. the civil religious tradition will not resolve these debates for us. but it does at least tell us what we should be arguing about. and it does give us some examples of how we can resolve such arguments. what we should be arguing about is freedom, equality, inclusion and how to balance them in our national and civic life. those are the philosophical stakes of the american experiment. that these core values can somehow be brought into a measure of harmony. talk alone is not enough. we also need to repair civil society and rebuild civic solidarity. the first step in that direction might actually be to redirect some of our time, energy and money away from national electoral politics. we might start by investing in a place, not a virtual web 2.0 place, but a sky and earth and
3:31 pm
brick-and-mortar kind of place. we might stop asking what a place can do for us, and what we can do for a place. one way we might do that is by joining an organization. not a point and click kind of organization, but a meet and greet kind of organization. unmediated organization where people meet face-to-face and work together on common projects. it is important to work within our communities, we also need to work across them. our communities are highly segregated. more segregated than never, not only by race that now religion, party, class and age. we are all segregationists now, i am afraid. even the most cosmopolitan. we often have more friends and colleagues on the other side of
3:32 pm
the world than on the other side of the tracks. these are things we can do as individuals on our personal initiative, to rebuild civil society. what can we do together as a nation? here are a few propositions. first, a renewed program of civic education. many americans know very little about american institutions and even less about american history. why not give every american student the same civics test of that every applicant for american citizenship has to pass? why not make passing that tests the condition for graduating from high school? second, make civic holidays and
3:33 pm
the holidays again, days when people do not work and cannot shop. [laughter] philip: days when people might talk to neighbors or watch parades. make election day such a day, as it is in many countries. having a system of national service requires all young people spend a year or two doing something for their country. join the military, clearer trail, teach a class. no waivers, no exceptions. i could be wrong, but most americans would support these measures. like a lot of things of ordinary american support, it is hard to imagine a becoming law. why? in part because our political system is so corrupt and polarized nothing gets done. the source of that corruption is obvious, it is money, the endless flow of influence money. when five of the 10 richest counties in america are in the washington, d.c. area, you know something is seriously wrong. i know we cannot stop the flow of money into politics, but that does not mean we should not slow it down. as for our polarization, the political parties are as much as to blame for cultural warriors. the two parties have carved up united states as a thanksgiving
3:34 pm
turkey to their advantage. there is a sophisticated gerrymandering, most districts are faced districts. that mostans districts are faced districts. districst.h they are more worried about primary challengers on the fringes of their party, than they are about electoral challengers from the other party. this would be easy to fix if everyone followed arizona's lead and put redistricting into the hand of independent, bipartisan commissions. candidates would be forced to run to the center instead of the fringes. not everyone will be interested in fixing the republic. a small handful are profiting handsomely from its demise and squirreling away the proceeds. others are so determined to win the culture war by any means necessary, democratic or not, they turn away, they are more
3:35 pm
interested blowing up the system than fixing. finally, still others are so disgusted, understandably, that they have turned away from politics altogether. who does that leave, exactly? a lot of us, i think. enough to turn things around if we were to pull together. as long as we are willing to listen to the better angels of our shared history. those of us were still committed to making hours a nation of nations and the people of peoples, that is the great experiment of american democracy. it is an intergenerational experiment, that outcome still unknown. it is important for the eyes of the world are still upon us and many would like us to fail. not just because they hate our freedom, some really do. but because they despise our diversity. they wager it is not possible to make a democratic people at as many people, and inclusive nation out of many nations. i for one, wager they are wrong,
3:36 pm
and i hope you do, too. so america can be america again, a land that has never been, but a land that still could be. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, professor gorski, you have given us a lot to think about and i'm sure there will be questions. as we bring up the microphones, a reminder to please step forward, we will alternate sides to find the microphone closest to you. remember this is a question and answer period, not a discussion period. i look forward to hearing your questions and professor gorski's response.
3:37 pm
audience member: [indiscernible] i can actually repeat the question. the question is about roy moore, who as many of you probably know, recently won the gop primary to fill the senate seat from alabama. roy moore is a former chief justice of the state supreme court of alabama, who had to vacate his seat due to various conflicts, including his insistence on putting a large
3:38 pm
monument to the 10 commandments in the state house. he has been a guy who has profited handsomely off the resulting controversies. this is one of those tricky issues. my view about this, i think what the constitution says is that there has to be institutional separation between church and state. but it does not say there has to be a sonic separation between religion and politics. some extreme secularists say, religious voices cannot be heard in the public square. i think that is wrong and even counterproductive because it forces people whose primary values are religious commitment to engage in a kind of hypocrisy, which they then get called out for. but i think in the case of roy
3:39 pm
moore, this is somebody in violation of various civic laws. somebody who was willfully, has tried to breach institutional separation as a means for his personal advancement. it is worrisome, but also a sign of the kind of discussed i was speaking of that many people have about corrupt leaders in washington. it is hard to know how many people voted for him because they like him or agree with them or how many voted because they hate this luther strange guy, a preacher of the republican establishment in washington, d.c. would they if they had better choices? audience member: [indiscernible]
3:40 pm
some claim american christians reject science and scientific reasoning. philip: right. [laughter] philip: that is a very important question. i have one of my former graduate students spend a lot of time studying this. i think a lot of it goes back to the debate about evolution in the early 20th century, and the stance that some fundamentalist christians took during that period. and the view that somehow, to
3:41 pm
defend a certain version, they had to reject the theory of evolution. but this has been increasingly expanded in recent years. of course, one would be remiss not to question the well-funded campaign of public misinformation about climate change, which has been funded by various people connected to the energy industry. they promoted this and expanded this. there was originally suspicion about evolution, and argument that expanded to climate change. how much longer this is sustainable, dozen other american city have to get knocked out before people start to see? does miami have to be underwater? just wait, it is all going to happen. sooner or later. audience member: this is actually a sports question. [laughter]
3:42 pm
philip: a sports comment? audience member: a sports comment-question. my dad always taught me sports are the last democratic bastion in the u.s. if you are good and work hard you play and are rewarded. my comment to you, my question to you is, what is your thought on what is happening in the nfl today, and what is going on? philip: it is a great question. like you, i am really dismayed by the politicization that has happened. i have to say, i am broadly sympathetic with the guys who are kneeling. it is a fairly respectful gesture, it is not a black power salute, they are not just sitting down, going away, not doing anything disrespectful. they are just trying to call attention to a very serious
3:43 pm
problem. i worry a little bit about the way in which -- although i understand, if you fought in a war, one of your children has, you find a disrespectful. what worries me about this is the way some people talk about the character of disrespect. that it is disrespecting the sacrifices people have made, as opposed to the values they sacrificed for. if you see it in that way, it becomes a little bit harder, it becomes a debate, it becomes more complicated. in some ways you could say,
3:44 pm
those guys are kneeling in defense of racial equality, which is something that is promised in the constitution. which is in their view and my view, still not achieved in this country. it really is dismaying. sports has been one of the most meritocratic parts of american society. but one that is generated a certain kind of unity. two guys meet in a bar, what do they talk about? it is a common denominator between people, that brings people together in a friendly, amiable way, and help people connect and trust one another. i am dismayed to see this ritual turned into a source of division. it is really unfortunate. >> so many questions, so little
3:45 pm
time. what is your opinion of the religious freedom act and the ability of the president to appoint one more supreme court justice, that might make us a theocracy? philip: i worry about who will be appointed, if there is another vacancy. to be honest, while i do not agree with a lot of neil gorsuch's views, he does have a deep respect for law and for the rule of law. he is not an amateur or a clown, or somebody who is just a
3:46 pm
complete political animal. i worry somebody like that could be, at the next appointment. i am still upset, mcconnell denying obama the chance to appoint -- somebody who was very centrist, should have been acceptable to everybody. would it have gotten 95 votes 10, 15, 20 years ago? i do worry about that. but i do not know if the big danger at this point is becoming a theocracy. i sometimes wonder, the more clear and present danger is in the rise of the secularized, white ethno-nationalism. audience member: civic religion as you describe it and i understand it is not necessarily tied to a connection with a god or specific theology, but the
3:47 pm
fact that religion ties it to the same sort of effect of bringing people together outside of intellectual processes? people have a skepticism toward religion of any kind. i'm wondering about ideas to counter or work with that, and on the other hand from the individual level, avoid becoming extreme with civic religion. philip: i think you are right to emphasize the difficulties that are there for secular and religious people to work together. there are plenty of counterexamples. one is, there are young evangelicals, they may not call
3:48 pm
themselves evangelicals anymore, but young christians for whom and this is one of their most important goals, to work across these divides. they do not feel they are achieving their goals. unless they do work with people who are secular progressives, ngo, civic organizations. there are people on the ground is starting to do this experiment to find out ways in which it can work. i do not disagree with you that it will be difficult. audience member: i like your suggestions about national
3:49 pm
service and civic engagement for high school students taking a kind of proficiency test. i am wondering what you think about how we could have people who are running for office to reveal -- when obama was president we knew what was on his [indiscernible] -- what was on his side table. we knew what he was reading. he revealed his philosophical, theological basis. what is a practical solution or idea for how we might engage budding politicians and lifelong politicians, to engage in the material and share with us where they are actually coming from and what is influencing them? philip: i do not know. i test for office for a higher office? tested the high school civics test to be able to run for president? that one would have worried us a
3:50 pm
few years ago, obviously. there are enough out in the ether, people agreed he did not have to be a reader and you still knew this stuff. it is an enormous failure in civic education. i do not have any great ideas for this. i wish there were more college-level courses like this. colleagues of mine are teaching right now the american imagination, a survey course to introduce undergraduates to american political thought. different from your standard survey course on political philosophy, focuses on american political philosophy. something like that would be a
3:51 pm
great service. also in the sense, that is part of how knowledge reaches out into the broader community. it is not by educating everybody, but some folks who can educate others. audience member: i have been informed i am the last question. i feel like the odd one out. i am a student here, i feel like a lot of the messages students are getting from each other are that religion is counterintuitive to progress and positive things. i am someone that believes strongly in both religion and democracy and i want to know what your advice would be for young people who are going to continue this country, how to best balance the two? philip: to balance religion -- audience member: religion, equality, democracy together. because that can be difficult. philip: i just was rereading one
3:52 pm
of my favorites, "democracy in america." the whole book is about america, but also about france. what has allowed religion to prosper in the u.s. has been for equality and democracy. it has maintained a certain distance from politics without becoming completely apolitical. that is pretty good advice. it is advice that is not being heeded right now. a lot of conservative christians have been in a death embrace with the republican party for 35 or 40 years. this is one of the things driving a lot of people out of the churches, right? i just do not agree with those politics.
3:53 pm
people are leaving for political reasons, not religious reasons. there rejecting the church because of their political stance. this is why these people do not say i am an atheist or not interested in religion. they say, i reject organized religion. that would be part of my advice. the other part of my advice would be, one of the bigger tasks for younger people of faith is to work again with people of no faith. to make that in and of itself a project, because that is really going to be one of the challenges. we become more culturally and religiously diverse in the coming decades.
3:54 pm
i do not know if that helps a little. >> if i could take a moment to thank all of you for coming today and the marvelous questions you have put before us and ask you again to join me in thanking professor gorski. [applause] >> if you did not have a chance to ask your questions, please feel free to join professor gorski in the entry way out there and pick up a copy of his book. pay for it first. [laughter] and you can get it autographed. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] interested in american
3:55 pm
history tv? go to our website. watch lectures, archival museums and more arid at -- and more at c-span.org/history. c-span can is underway. students across the country are busy at work sharing their experiences with us through twitter. it's not too late to enter. our deadline is january 18, 2018. we are asking students to choose a position in the united states constitution and create a video on why it is important to you. $100,000 in cash prizes will be awarded. the grand prize of $5,000 will go to the student or team with
3:56 pm
the best of row entry. for more information, -- best overall entry. for more information, go to our website. >> this weekend, on the presidency, left a theater roosevelt in a portrayal before a group in the district of columbia. including his unexpected ascension to the white house after william mckinley fascination. -- william mckinley's assassination. here is a preview. >> i-70 came to the presidency through the graveyard -- i sadly came to the presidency through the graveyard. after sunday's, his physicians assured me and members of the cabinet that the president would recuperate from his wounds.
3:57 pm
i remember the trip well. highest point in new york state. that cloud splitter lived up to its name. when i reached the apex, the guide split, and my showed me the bodies of water and mountains for 360 degrees around. when we came. down and had lunch, the hunting path,was coming up the rushing with what appeared to be a telegram in his hands. i knew to be bad news. the telegram was from john hayes, private secretary to lincoln, now mckinley's secretary of state. it informed me that the president was dying in buffalo and i was needed tere. -- there.
3:58 pm
treating hiss wounds were obstetricians, none of whom had ever treated a gunshot wound in his practice. early inached there the morning, another telegram from john ms. stating -- john hayes stating that president mckinley had died. i raised to buffalo by train, paid condolences to mrs. private, and then, in a residence, the wilcox mansion in in a borrowed suit of clothes, i took the oath of office without a bible at hand, stating briefly before hand that it would be my aim that the policies of the mckinley administration for the peace and prosperity of the american people would we entirely unbroken. >> watch the entire program on
3:59 pm
the presidency. history tv,ican only on c-span 3. the 50c-span bus is on capitals tour, visiting every state capital and hearing about each state's priorities. we have now visited 12 state capitals. the next stop is tallahassee, florida. we will be there december 6 with live interviews during washington journal. >> announcer: 70 years ago, the house un-american activities committee launched an investigation of so-called communist influence in the american film industry. joseph mccarthy with host hearings. this would become -- his name would become synonymous with fears anti-communism --fierce anti-communism in the 1950's. this aired on a program which
4:00 pm
aired on cbs until 1955. >> it's time for the longines cone scope. a presentation by the company that makes longines. >> good evening, this is frank knight. may i introduce our coeditors
left
right

3 Views

disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on